Sunday, February 18, 2018


A 3-6" snowfall on Saturday night was followed by sun and almost-spring temperatures on Sunday's hike. We were spared a lot of snow shoveling as much of it melted by noon. And because of the snow I was spared picking up a lot of litter

Visit #1123, Sunday 18 February 18, 2:00-4:30PM, 4.9 miles.
Temps in the 40's, sunny.

Last week I wrote that I might have to be the bad guy and remove all the Christmas ornaments from the tree at Echo Point, and surely piss some people off. Hey; it's ONLY SIX WEEKS after the holidays...

Fortunately I was spared the dirty work.

As I started my hike on Sunday, I was approached by a couple asking for hiking directions to Castle Craig. While I did hand them a trail map, I realized their interest coincided with this week's plan, so I offered Jeff and Lasmyne to join me.

We hiked the road around Merimere Reservoir and I was quite amazed by the number of footprints. It showed that despite the snow, quite a number of people enjoy the park and trails.

Had I been thinking more clearly, I would have photographed the kids sledding down the hill near the water tank, too.

Well, J., J., and I reached Echo Point and I saw the tree had been cleaned of ornaments sometime during last week.

We picked up the Blue Trail at the north end of Merimere Reservoir and hiked all the way to Castle Craig. Enroute, we enjoyed views like this, except with some snow (archive photo).

We toured Castle Craig then hiked the trails down and past the Halfway House back to the park.

I did manage to pick up some litter, and had help from my company as well. Thanks!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Peace and Quiet

It wasn't as cold as the ice would make you think. A nice day if you managed to avoid the rain.

Visit #1122, Saturday 10 February 18, 10:30AM-12:30PM, 7.2 miles.
Temps in the low 40's, cloudy with rain developing in the afternoon.

After 3 weeks of working with the chainsaw on a fallen tree near West Peak, I wanted some peace and quiet. So, this week I would seek out a little used trail for some tranquility.

I started out on the far side of the fence in the archival photo you see below, picking up litter as I thought it an eyesore for people in the park. The weather cooperated by melting the snow which would hide bottles, cans, and whatnot. I used my hedge clippers to cut through the thorn bushes to reach the area. Now you know why I carry them virtually every week.

I collected enough that I decided to leave the first trash bag at the water treatment plant.

Although the roads were clear, I was warned the trails would still be icy. As with last week, I donned my Stabilicer Maxx cleats which made hiking easy and safe, which was important on the trails today. I watched other, non-equipped hikers walking as if trying to avoid imaginary cow patties-funny!

No sooner did I reach the trails did I find this little "stash of trash", which included-a hub cap!?

Passing Castle Craig, I reached my trail of solitude and sure enough, had it all to myself.

On the way down I had the opportunity to do a little trail maintenance.

I was concerned I wouldn't be able to cross the stream at the trail's end, expecting water flow to be heavy. That wasn't the case, and crossing it was a dry affair.

Cracking ice, wind, and leaves formed interesting patterns on the surface.

At Echo Point, the decorated Christmas Tree STILL hasn't been restored to its original state.

Does anyone reading this blog still have THEIR Christmas tree up?! I may have to go all Grinch on this tree and it's not going to make Cindy Lou Who happy. Stay tuned.


Tree decorators.

I returned to the park, and avoided the impending rain by roughly 2 hours.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Angry Chain

Icy trails and cold temps were the order for the day.

Visit #1121, Saturday 3 February 18, 12:05-3:00PM, 5.2 miles.
Temps in the high 20's, sunny.

After a week's hiatus, I was back on the trail to brawl with the fallen tree near West Peak.

As I set out on Saturday, getting to the tree with a chainsaw in my backpack was potentially going to be a dicey proposition. You see, I discovered the trails were all glazed over with ice.

Fortunately, I'm getting wiser in my old age and have learned to leave my ice cleats in my backpack all through the winter.

I stopped to put them on, then walked with impunity, as I watched another hiker, even with walking poles, turn around in defeat due to the slick trail.

Now, as to this formidable opponent of a tree. It has resisted my attempts to dominate it, consuming entire tanks of fuel from my chainsaw with little progress.

About the only bright spot in this, as I approached the tree on Saturday and seeing the number of footprints through the gap I cut previously, was knowing people were using the fruits of my labor.

One reason for such poor cutting was this dead tree, whose internal wood lacked any moisture.

The other reason was my chain. Grandma could chew an apple without her dentures faster than my chain was going through that tree.

See that green tie strap? That's how Stihl identifies its low kickback chains. Kickback can cause the chain to strike you while it's running, ruining your good looks, and possibly your day. So Stihl installs them by default on all but their professional saws. But low kickback chains trade cutting effectiveness for safety. That's because homeowners with chainsaws can be their own worst enemies. I'm obsessive and techno-geeky enough to meticulously maintain my chain's sharpness, so that wasn't my problem. What was my solution?

Stihl makes a take-no-prisoners chain. It's identified by a yellow tie strap. I bought one. Sorta like when you were bad and dad brought out the strap-things were about to get ugly.

I won't bore you with the details, but this thing is a Tasmanian Devil against trees.

That yellow chain meant business. It was eye-poppingly fast. I'm talking hungry dog through a bowl of kibble fast. And I'm happy to say after using it that I retained my good looks.

Now, even your mother-in-law can fit through that gap. Well; maybe if she turns sideways...

Heady with the euphoria of success, I left the area and hiked the trails back down and by the Halfway House, where I found the leftovers from a campfire.

I returned to the park and dropped off my bag of litter for the week.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Wise Decisions

It was humorous watching the flock of geese follow that family like they were a collective Pied Piper. I'd follow them too, if they were feeding me. But I don't live on bread alone.

And yes; it's "flock", not "gaggle". For this week's interesting tidbit, read about the difference between the two terms HERE.

I know you were hoping to read about Round 3 with the tree up at West Peak, but I was on-call this week and made the wise decision, as I do MOST OF THE TIME, to stick close to the park in case I needed to leave on short notice for a service call.

As for that tree well, let's just say I've got a trick up my sleeve to make fast work of my adversary. Stay tuned for next week's post to find out if I can finally whup that tree, and how I plan to pull it off.

I parked at the playscape and followed the trails west and over the I-691 walkbridge. Over on the the far side of the bridge, I stepped beyond the fence surrounding both sides to pick up litter.

Directly opposite that fence entrance, someone painted a shoddy arrow on a tree.

Unsightly, despite the good intentions of the painter. I removed it with a wire brush.

Yes; that's a nail my brush is hanging on. No idea how long or why it's there. This tree was struck by lightning several years ago and is obviously dead.

I turned around at this point and followed other trails back to the park. Enroute I cleaned up the gravel parking area in the northwest corner of Mirror Lake.

I then turned my attention to the triangle of road around the Soap Box Derby track and the retention ponds.

As I walked the road toward the gate, my work phone rang, which meant a service call and time to leave. So my decision to stick close to the parking lot today was a wise one.

As I approached the gate, which is closed to vehicles for the season... (the following pictures were taken Sunday, when it wasn't quite as sunny or warm).

...I watched two men on motorcycles try and squeeze their bikes through the pedestrian gate.

I just stood there from 30 feet away and watched these two, who were inconsiderate of the fact the road was closed for the season AND there were people on the road enjoying the weather, and the lack of cars. Not a wise decision on their part.

Well, the first rider took umbrage at my presence and gave me his toughest "You got a problem?" I didn't say anything but got the middle finger from him anyway.

Fortunately, the bollard design did its job, and he couldn't fit his motorcycle through the gate. They turned around and left.

I returned to the parking lot and dropped off my bag of litter for the week.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tree: 1, Peter: 1

Hubbard Park was teeming with people on Sunday, enjoying a January Thaw day, which in case you didn't know, is an actual meteorlogical phenomenon. Click on the link to read about it. The playscape and the trails/road around Merimere Reservoir were also being used by people seeking treatment for cabin fever.

Visit #1119, Sunday 21 January 18, 10:40AM-1:40PM, 6.2 miles.
Temps in the mid-40's, sunny.

From the photo above, it's obvious there was skating on Mirror Lake on Sunday. It was the first time in more than 10 years. Kinda didn't match the barren ground, though.

It looked like fun, but I had a fight to finish with a fallen tree on the Blue Trail just below West Peak. The tree went the distance with me and my chainsaw last week. I ran out of fuel and failed to reopen the trail.

As I started out on the trail behind the bank of daffodils, I was surprised to find a newly fallen tree.

In last week's post I complained that it was either my poor chainsaw sharpening skills or the type of wood I was cutting that caused me such anguish. Here was my chance to test my skills against a different type of wood; freshly fallen oak vs. some dead tree of unknown type.

It was a beautiful, square cut and my chain traveled through it like a colonoscopy prep. If you've done one, you're laughing.

The curly shavings were a thing of beauty. Now my chainsaw was rockin'. Wonder how it will fare on my real adversary, which awaits near West Peak.

At the walkbridge over I-691, I found this empty pack of cigarettes and had a chuckle.

You see, on the back it reads, "Respect For The Earth" but I guess that only pertains to an all-natural product. As far as what the smoker does with the box, no respect is required!

I hiked over I-691 and up to the Blue Trail. At the trail intersection I came upon my Find of the Week.

This fully intact Under Armour Draft waterbottle with high tech, complicated flip top spout. Partially frozen contents, with a foam head. I was tempted to try it but who knows what kind of cruel joke could be inside? I opened it up and the tea tag popped out.

It's not my style but maybe I'll reserve it Hubbard Park use only as that's where I found it.

Now let's get to that obstinate tree and that grudge match.

If you recall last week, I had a problem working around the tree due to all the cold, standing water. I vowed to solve that problem this week and was hoping to test my fix. But Mother Nature was having none of it and froze the water so I didn't have to worry about wet feet. But just in case it was liquid underneath, I rigged up anyway.

Yessiree; trash bags and my Stabilicers to hold them in place.

The bell rang and the rematch was on. I completed the first cut I started last week, and dropped the far end of the tree.

But here my chainsaw was making that mealy dust instead of the chips on that oak tree back at the park. Clearly, the type of wood matters.

Now I had to finish the second cut I started last week, and get that sucka' on the ground.

I was successful, but burned through a lot of gas, and made another pile of dust. You can see on the left of the photo I started a third cut; even though the tree was on the ground the trail still was not clear. I managed a fourth cut to separate a small section, but it was too heavy to move alone.

Fortunately, along came a couple passersby who were more than willing to help me roll it out of the way. Now the trail is reopened, but not to my satisfaction.

Again, I ran out of gas before completing the job. This fight isn't over...

I hiked up to West Peak to check for litter and enjoy the views.

Looking south toward Broad Brook Reservoir.

And west toward Mt. Southington. You can clearly see the ski runs.

I walked the road until I picked up the Blue Trail, then made my way past the Halfway House, down to Merimere Reservoir, and back to the park. Enroute I came along Season of the Missing Glove 2018, Contestant #1. Or for the semantically inclined or anal retentive, Missing Mitten.

By the time I returned to the parking lot, there was a lot more activity in Hubbard Park, such as these people walking the road around the reservoir.

According to the definition of January Thaw, people won't be enjoying the weather for long as we'll return to cold temps by the end of the week.